People buy from people. Or so the saying goes. But here’s a question: If that’s really the case – and a number of proof points say it is, both empirically and anecdotally – should it be?
There are dynamics in any buying/selling relationship. Some are the classic type you’d find in an economics text book. There is demand and supply, negotiation and a price or range of prices at which a deal can be struck. There are hundreds of other aspects, outside the basics. (And plenty of books to tell you all about them.)
But there can undoubtedly be an emotional component too. We might not like that. We might deny it at times. But it exists.
Buying and selling in B2B scenarios should be devoid of this emotional component. It isn’t as if buyers are in the market for luxury goods, that new Rolex you’ve coveted for years.
So why isn’t this the case?
For one thing, there is comfort in familiarity. It is easy to use a company or, more likely, a person who has known you for years, quite possibly someone you’ve worked alongside and would happily share a meal or drink with.
But it goes beyond that. Often the person you end up doing business with because of emotional decision-making isn’t your contact. It might be that ex-colleague or cousin of a current co-worker.
There are several reasons for this, beyond laziness. For one thing, that co-worker of yours probably wants to be seen as a good networker.
Also if you’re the person doing the recommending, you might also be counting on some kind of long term quid pro quo. Who doesn’t want this kind of ‘help’ in the favour bank?
Finally, back to the laziness factor. OK, ‘laziness’ might be the wrong word. But word of mouth (WOM) can often lead to fast decision-making. Everyone likes fast decision-making.
Of course, the WOM, buying-by-recommendation approach can still result in successes. We’ve all experienced them. I’d say those cases have an element of luck. And are in the minority.
Here’s why: Anyone procuring goods or services this way is fishing in a small pond. The small gene pool in play means there isn’t due diligence and shopping around being done in key areas such as price, timing and quality.
And it can get worse, long term. A relationship struck off the back of emotions (pure gut decision-making) and familiarity can also lead to a situation where changing supplier is hard. Even getting that supplier to maintain quality of service, in a set up where competition is scant, becomes hard.
Salespeople have been trained since the beginning of time to sell on relationships, on familiarity, on recognition. As a buyer, remember this – you don’t have to do it that way.